Jordan Oliver's bucket list is short, but it's important.
The 149-pound senior has accomplished what most collegiate wrestlers dream of — a No. 1 individual ranking, a Big 12 Championship, an individual NCAA Championship — but as his Oklahoma State career winds down, there is still something to achieve.
That includes an individual and team title at the 2013 NWCA/Cliff Keen Dual Meet Championship Finals. Oliver, who moved up two weight classes this year, and the Cowboys begin their quest for that championship Friday in Minneapolis at Williams Arena.
“It's definitely going to be a great experience, one to remember,” Oliver said. “I've competed in it three years, including this year, and I've never had a National Dual title. So I'm looking to leave my senior year and leave my legacy getting a National Dual team title.”
But it won't come easy. The field of eight is stacked with the nation's best teams. Said OSU coach John Smith, “I can't remember wrestling in the National Duals where it just looks really competitive.”
OSU leads as the No. 1 seed, followed by Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Cornell and Illinois. The Cowboys will face No. 8 seed Illinois first at 6 p.m. Friday, in a somewhat unusual scenario. Illinois was one of four teams to receive an automatic bye of the qualifying rounds to enter the finals, but the Illini wound up with the lowest seed. OSU had to qualify for the finals, because of a seeding system based on individual results from last season.
It's just become more motivation for Oliver, along with a chance to bring down Minnesota. It was the Golden Gophers who toppled OSU in the National Duals last year in Stillwater.
“It's definitely put some fire under us,” Oliver said.
Smith has been impressed with Oliver's leadership this season, including his ability to wrestle through minor injuries that have worn on him. More than anything, Oliver (25-0) has owned his position on the national wrestling landscape as a top competitor.
“That's good pressure to have,” Oliver said. “It motivates you to always make sure that you're in position, focused and ready for tough matches. Going out there and trying to dominate and win tough duals.”
That type of notoriety is nothing new for Smith or a number of other OSU wrestlers who've passed through Gallagher-Iba Arena's halls. Making the leap to legendary status as a Cowboy comes down to a simple formula.
“You either want to be the man, or you don't,” Smith said. “Once you get there, if you treat it like you're holding on, you'll wrestle like you're holding on … (Oliver) understands what it takes to stay there.”
Live radio coverage of Friday and Saturday night will be carried on 93.7 KSPI-FM, with Saturday afternoon coverage on 780 KSPI-AM. The Big 10 Network will carry the live television broadcast of the finals on Saturday night.